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Meetings are an inescapable part of office activity, and they can be a significant drag on time and morale if they’re not managed with care. In this post, we’ll talk you through some time-tested strategies for running a meeting.

Looking for more efficiency tips? Check out this post on time management for long and short projects!

Arrive Early

This one can be tough, particularly if you’re trying to squeeze in just a few more minutes of solo work before signing out for a meeting, but this will ensure that you don’t feel flustered, and it will also prevent you from spending precious minutes setting up your presentation or agenda. You can also lead by example, cutting down on tardiness overall. Commit to at least ten minutes of lead time.

Start On Time

Another good scheduling policy is to start the meeting on the dot, no matter how many people are still on their way. If you spend several minutes bantering while you wait for stragglers to arrive, you won’t just lose valuable time. You’ll set a diffident, meandering tone that will infect the whole meeting. You’ll also give your entire team the impression that punctuality isn’t important, a tendency that can easily escalate over time.

Promote Your Agenda

It’s important to have an agenda, but you can go a step further by making sure that it’s shared with all attendees ahead of time. If you’d like to allow other attendees to contribute, you can create a shared document for comments, or reserve a ten-minute “Q&A” or “Open Comments” time at the end of the meeting.

Need some tips for staying on task? Read out tips for staying focused in a busy office

Engage Beforehand

This is another productivity boost, since it will help people come to meetings with prepared ideas and solutions. If you can interface with people beforehand, you can also develop a better sense of what level of feedback they’ll offer during the meeting. To spark a response, ask people to consider a topic or two, or brainstorm some solutions beforehand.

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Write It Down

Even if you don’t keep formal minutes, it’s a good idea to document major parts of the meeting. A short memo, not more than a page of bullet points, should be plenty of information. Be sure to record any questions that require further study, as well as assignments for individuals or groups. When you send this document out, be sure to include presentation materials or other relevant information, so that your employees can find it in one place.

Keep It Exclusive

A major contributor to meetings that drag on is overbroad criteria for attendance. Does Susan need to be there, or can she pick up the gist from her supervisor Julie? Does your entire staff need to hear about this, or will it be best to stick with a single department and circulate a document or hold a later Q&A session?

Engage Your Team

Part of managerial authority is learning to delegate, and this is as true for meetings as anything else. An hour or more at the helm is tiring even for experienced administrators, so you may want to look for ways to break up the time. See if you can delegate presentations or sections of the meeting to subordinates, particularly people who need to expand their knowledge base on a particular topic, or who may be able to take the lead on a long-term project.

Know Your Limits

This can be tough, particularly if your meeting is less-structured or built around dialogue rather than presentation, but it’s crucial to ensure that meetings never go past their scheduled time limits. If a discussion is dragging on, bring your team back to the agenda. If you’re running over, apologize and ask attendees if they can speak to you one-on-one or follow up via email. If you need to create space to discuss a long-term project, see how much of the process you can move online.

Staying on top of a collaborative process like a meeting always takes a little bit of care and attention, but the process can be streamlined. If you keep these guidelines in mind, you should have no trouble running a meeting with efficiency and élan.

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